I am very restless lately. I kind of have that same feeling I had in college when only the slightest amount of down time promted a spontaneous road trip. That phrase - "road trip" - was really a tangible expression of the concept of freedom, a chance to leave it all behind and throw caution to the wind. If I'm honest, the thought of spontaneous freedom still tugs at me like mid-day hunger pains.
It's silly, I know, to still think in those terms. After all, I've been happily married for nearly ten years, have 4 kids, work a full-time job and live in suburbia. When am I ever going to grow up? If, after all these years, I haven't learned to quench the restlessness of my soul, what's it going to take? Of course another question might be, if all the road trips I've taken never quenched my restless soul, is there anything that could?
I've always looked at this restlessness as a bad thing, something that should be despised and curtailed. Now I'm wondering if restlessness is just as natural in this life as traffic and mysterious itchiness (you know, like when your back itches for no apparent reason?). Maybe it's just selfishness of the highest order, or maybe it's the sting of living a small life in a big world. G.K. Chesterton, the great British writer, said "With every step of our lives we enter into the middle of some story which we are certain to misunderstand." Chesterton may not have stated it strongly enough. These days it's more like we are so sick of misunderstanding the story that we no longer embrace the story, but the misunderstanding. We're left with grave uncertainty and empty restlessness, and it seems there's not much of a cure for either.
The only time I feel alive and free is when I connect the dots to this great masterpiece in which we live. When I see the great story at work, when my heart is awakened by an element of nature or art or relationship, and I see God's great story unfold. Only then - if just for a moment - does freedom infiltrate this world and fill my heart with hope. As Frederick Buechner writes,
"It is a world of magic and mystery, of deep darkness and flickering starlight. It is a world where terrible things happen and wonderful things too. It is a world where good is pitted against evil, love against hate, order against chaos, in a great struggle where often it is hard to be sure who belongs to which side because appearances are endlessly deceptive. Yet for all its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily ever after, and where in the long run everybody, good and evil alike, becomes known by his true name... That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, one crucial difference from all other fairy tales, which is that it is true, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening since and is happening still." (Telling the Truth)I am restless, but I believe. I believe because this story has been written and continues to play itself out in my life and the lives of those around me. Sometimes it's just not as glamerous as Buechner makes it sound. But there are those occasions where it is that exciting and noble and adventuresome. If you've ever had those times, you probably want to take a road trip with me right now. Maybe restlessness isn't all bad.